Friday, May 29, 2015

San Diego Adventures 2015

We decided to take our annual California trip to San Diego over Memorial Day weekend.  With traffic and busy crowds, we thought it would be best to leave Thursday and come back Saturday, so before the weekend rolled around, we packed up our car and made the trek down to San Diego!  Nolan did much better in the car than I anticipated (I anticipated a disaster), and fell asleep for about 30 minutes before we reached Barstow, and then again for an hour around his normal naptime at 1:30, right before we entered San Diego city limits.  Once we reached our hotel, we tried to check-in, but had to wait for an hour before our room was ready.  We had plenty to see and decided to walk around the huge hotel and the surrounding area in Gaslamp Quarter while we waited.  Nolan was given an adorable little backpack when we checked in, as part of the Omni Sensational Kids program, and he thought it was the coolest thing to wear it while we did our sightseeing.  (Inside, they provided a cute silly straw, a coloring and activity book with crayons, and some fun flashcards!  So cute!)

The hotel connected directly to Petco Park, and Jason walked down to ask a quick question about game tickets since we would be going later that night, while Nolan decided to watch his every move. When he came back up, we ventured over to the pool area and Nolan threw some money in and made a wish for a fun weekend ahead!

Once we finally got checked in to our room and settled, we made our way over to Petco Park before the game started.  We bought tickets for Park at the Park, where we could sit in general admission on the grassy hill to watch the game, as well as let Nolan play on the playground right in the park.  We walked around and ate some signature ball park dinner - hot dogs, beers and nachos - yum!  Once the game started, we set up our blanket and claimed our spot on the hill, and let Nolan run around with the rest of the kids.  Towards about the 5th or 6th inning, I saw Nolan running towards a guy with a huge camera, and realized it was for the Jumbotron!  I whipped my camera out and recorded a little bit of the end of his 5 Seconds of Fame!  After more fun of running around and kicking back and watching the game, we decided to pick up early before the crowds and headed back to the hotel.  Nolan passed out instantly when we put him to bed, and we rested up before our big day at Sea World!

On our second day, we had big plans to spend as much time as we could handle at Sea World!  We were skeptical about visiting Sea World, with how much negative attention it has been getting over the last few years, but when we did our research and saw that they had a Sesame Street area for the little kids, we knew we had to try it!  We ended up loving it and Nolan absolutely lost his mind with excitement in the Sesame Street Bay of Play area (Sesame Street is a big hit in our house).  The park is well maintained and the animals are all very close to interact with.  It was much bigger than I anticipated and we ended up liking it so much, that we stayed from 11-5!  Nolan took a 45 minute nap in his stroller but was too excited to see everything, so there was no way he was napping for his normal 2-3 hours!  

We got there an hour after the park opened, and since we went on a Friday, it was a great mix of being busy enough so it wasn't a ghost-town, but not miserably crowded.  We made our first stop to visit the killer whales, and although Jason and I could watch them for hours, Nolan was more interested in running around the underwater viewing area than checking out the whales!  We read that the best time to visit Shamu and his friends was as soon as the park opens, since that is when they are most active, and we watched them swim laps, do flips underwater and swim upside down.  As we were leaving the whale exhibit, we ran into a vulture, and Nolan was so not impressed with getting his picture taken with it.

We made our way over to Sesame Street Bay of Play, because we wanted to meet and greet with the characters at 11:45.  I changed Nolan into his Cookie Monster shirt, and told him he was going to meet the REAL Cookie!  (He looked at me like I was crazy).  I knew Nolan would freak out with excitement as soon as he saw anything Sesame Street related, so as we came up to the entrance, I filmed his reaction.  Before I started filming, he was already going nuts over the souvenir shop with all things Sesame... so he was a bit calmer than I expected when he initially saw the Sesame sign.  Once he realized what it was though, we couldn't get him to stop!  He was ready to go and SO excited!

There are lots of play structures at Bay of Play, and although we passed up the ropes course and the splash park, Nolan had a blast in the play area with foam blocks.  We could have spent the entire day in this one area and he would have been thrilled!  He ran all around, and kept trying to go hang out with the Elmo height chart against the wall.  He would scream with excitement every time he saw it (yep, that's him shrieking in the video)!

We took him out of the play area and let him discover the rest of the fun props and activities on his own.  Of course he had to snap a picture with the height chart Elmo, and he continued on to find a an underwater Elmo, Ernie, a fun music play area and even a giant pirate ship with all of his favorite character's flags!

Finally, the real Elmo and Cookie Monster came out to meet all the kids!  Nolan could NOT believe his eyes, and screamed when he saw Cookie.  He made a mad dash for him and we had to remind Nolan about waiting in line and taking turns.  Once it was our turn to meet and greet, Nolan could not have been sweeter.  He gave Cookie Monster a big hug right away, and was excited to see Elmo, but wasn't too sure about giving him a hug on his own.  You could see the excitement in his face and when taking pictures with the characters, he just seemed in awe that he was hanging out with Elmo and Cookie!  I'm pretty sure this was the best moment of his entire life.  Ha!

After meeting the characters and trying to convince him there were other things to do in the park, we stayed in Bay of Play and let Nolan experience his first amusement park rides!  We rode Elmo's Flying Fish, first, which is similar to the Dumbo ride in Disneyland.  Afterwards, we had a blast on Abbey's Sea Star Spin, which is just like the Tea Cups at Disneyland.  Nolan really enjoyed this one and we rode it twice in a row!  Finally, we hopped on Oscar's Rockin' Eel, which is a boat ride that goes back and forth and side to side.  He didn't seem to impressed with this one, and Jason actually started feeling queasy, so we ended our rides for the morning and decided to come back in the afternoon if we had time.  Nolan was really into his snack cup and refused to put it down for all of the rides, but he did seem to enjoy them and didn't cry or seem scared, which is better than I thought it would go!

After we spent a good chunk of time in Bay of Play, we grabbed some lunch and chowed down on some grilled cheeses and philly cheese steaks.  On our way through, we met some flamingos and Nolan really enjoyed watching them!

After lunch, we made our way to the Penguin Encounter.  We got to hang out with hundreds of penguins inside a dark, cool exhibit, and since they didn't allow any photography inside, I didn't get any pictures.  Outside, Nolan spent a ton of time watching the warmer weathered penguins swim, dive, shake and honk!  He could not get enough and thought it was hilarious!  

We moved on to Turtle Reef, and saw tons of sea turtles with deep sea fish.  Nolan enjoyed this aquarium since he could go right up to the glass and get a up close look at them.  Once we finished with this exhibit, we exited and found ourselves by a caricature booth.  We had seen a friend's drawing that they had done at Sea World, and Jason and I both thought it was SO funny looking.  We took one look at each other and knew we had to get this thing done.  The girl did an amazing job and only took 5 minutes for each of us.  She did Nolan first, and he sat on my lap in the shade while she drew.  I could tell he was getting sleepy, so I let him rest on me and he ended up falling fast asleep.  It worked out perfect as she finished up drawing Jason and I, and I snuck him back into the stroller without waking him.  We ended up dying of laughter at our caricature when it was finished, and couldn't believe how hilarious yet insanely accurate her drawing came out to be.  As Nolan napped, Jason and I walked around and viewed the Freshwater aquariums, more flamingos, and sting rays.

When he woke up about 45 minutes later, we continued on to the Sea Lion exhibit.  Nolan loved these and thought they were the funniest of all the animals we saw.  Plenty of people were feeding them fish, and when they were hungry, they would bark.  Since then, Nolan has learned how to bark like a sea lion and will do so frequently!  The little white birds would dart down and try to steal the sea lion's food, which also cracked Nolan up!  

Next up were the dolphins, and again, Nolan really wasn't too into these, just like the whales.  Maybe he had a hard time seeing them in the water?  We watched for a while and he enjoyed running up and down the glass, and a few times interacted with the dolphins when they swam up, but otherwise he was not a fan.  These are some of my favorites and I could watch them for hours!  They are amazingly smart and had fun playing with the people on the outskirts, throwing and catching the balls with them, swimming around and doing tricks.  So cool!

Since we had seen most of the animals, and wanted to pass on the shows (since Nolan would have not sat through them) we decided to head back to Sesame Street Bay of Play to ride more rides and play before we left Sea World.  This time, Nolan wasn't too cool with Abby's Sea Star Spin, because Daddy spun it really fast and it freaked him out a bit.  Lesson learned- no spinning fast!  We rode Elmo's Flying Fish again a few more times, and went back to play in the blocks play area.  The weather was a bit overcast and cool, and Nolan had more interest in the rides and walking around than checking out the splash pad area, so we passed this time around.  After our adventurous day, we said Bye! to our Sesame friends and headed out of the park.  With a quick stop at the souvenir shop and one sea lion stuffed animal later, our Sea World adventure was over.  It was an amazing day and we would definitely go back!  

Nolan crashed on the car ride back downtown, and we made a stop for dinner at our favorite place to eat in San Diego- Filippi's in Little Italy.  We eat here every time we visit San Diego, and keep it a tradition as Jason's Dad and grandparents used to dine here frequently years ago.  After dinner, we spent some time walking around Little Italy looking for some dessert.  Nothing was sounding super yummy, so we decided to check out a homemade ice cream shop by our hotel, called Crunch Time.  We got a cookie sandwich with Blackberry ice cream and it was delicious!  Nolan put away the brownie cookie like it was nothing!  After our dessert time, we walked back to our hotel, and on our way, we passed these cool, huge doors of a building on a side street, so of course we needed a photoshoot!  After being adorable as always, we crossed the street to our hotel, got ready for bed and all passed out from our long day!

The next morning, we were ready to hit the beach!  Nolan loved watching the view of the cars, trains and people outside of our window, and the bay view wasn't too shabby, either!  We packed up the car and headed to Mission Beach.  When we got there, Jason set up our beach supplies, and Nolan chowed down on his snacks and sported his sunglasses (that we won from Subsidy Shades!) like a boss.  Daddy taught him how to build sandcastles, and after all of his hard work, Nolan decided to stomp all over them instead.  He loved chasing the seagulls, and running up and down the beach.  The water was freeeeezing, and Nolan made it known that he was NOT going to get wet (can't blame him, it was COLD!)  We spent some time on the beach and then decided to grab lunch at Belmont Park.  We ate some pizza and burgers, and walked up and down the boardwalk to tire Nolan out before our long car ride back home.  

We had the BEST time in San Diego, and loved watching Nolan experience so many new things.  We love being able to give him experiences like this, even though he won't remember them when he's older, and it gives us great memories as a family that we will love to look back on forever!